Subscribe Search

Search form

Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Anger floating downstream

Anger floating downstream

Anger floating downstream

2 Xayaburi dam

In a united stand against hydropower dam projects on the Mekong River and its tributaries, villagers and NGO workers from Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam yesterday called on governments to cancel projects such as Laos’s Xayaburi dam.

Frustrated that their governments either financially support such projects or have failed to publicly oppose them, about 200 people who live along the major river and its tributaries attended a forum convened by groups including NGO Forum on Cambodia.

“Along with 12 proposed Mekong mainstream dams, most of the major Mekong tributaries in the region are now full with many existing and proposed dams,” a joint statement reads. “Yet, no meaningful dialogue to solve existing problems and prevent further destruction has yet occurred in the region.”

The message coming out of the two-day forum was hardly new, but those involved hoped the diversity of voices spreading it would better catch the attention of lawmakers.

“We hope that [government] representatives will take note of the findings here today and work with us to address energy issues in our country,” said Trang Tham, a community representative from Ratanakkiri.

Omboun Tipsuna, from a network of Mekong community organisations in Thailand, said villagers in her country were concerned about river erosion and a reduction in fish stocks and had already felt the effects of Chinese dams upstream. “We have reasons why we’re against these dams,” she said. “Sixty million [people] benefit from the river.”

It is now up to villagers and NGOs to work collectively to make their governments listen, she added. “You are promoters,” she said to the audience. “We are boxers. There will be boxing. We will not hang up our gloves.”

Lam Thi Thu Suu, co-ordinator of Vietnam River Network (VRN), said such discussion was exactly what organisers and participants wanted.

“While the information about the region is not always available – at least on mass media and in Vietnamese – coming to the meeting will help Vietnamese activist groups . . . and journalists understand the problem and risks,” she said.

Laos began building the Xayaburi dam in November without the approval of Cambodia and Vietnam. Neither country, however, spoke out in any great way once construction began. Since then, Cambodia has approved the Lower Sesan 2 dam on a Mekong tributary in Stung Treng province.

Noticeably missing from the forum yesterday were representatives of Lao civil society.

“Unfortunately, hydropower is far too sensitive inside Laos. None of the civil society groups could join – it would be too dangerous for them,” said Ame Trandem, Southeast Asia program director for International Rivers. “With [hydropower activist] Sombath Somphone’s disappearance [last December] . . . right now, a lot of our partners are still in hiding, and people are too scared to be seen in a forum where hydropower issues are discussed.”

Trandem’s colleague, Songqiao Yao, said that due to political pressure, few NGOs worked on hydropower issues in China, despite the government having already built six dams on the Mekong,  which were affecting countries downstream.


  • Kak Channthy, Cambodian Space Project frontwoman, killed in crash at 38 [Updated]

    Updated 5:05pm, Tuesday, March 20, 2018 Kak Channthy, frontwoman of popular The Cambodian Space Project, was killed Tuesday morning in a traffic accident in Phnom Penh. She was 38. Channthy, the internationally recognised singer-songwriter also known as “Srey Thy”, was reportedly travelling in a tuk-tuk on the city's

  • Australian police investigating death threat against Kem Ley's widow

    Updated: 10:17am, Friday March 23, 2018 Australian authorities on Thursday confirmed they have launched an investigation into a crudely written death threat sent tothe family of slain political analyst Kem Ley and Victoria state MP Hong Lim. The typed letter, reported to Victoria police last week, is

  • Apparel groups including H&M and Gap urge Cambodia garment industry reform, seek meeting with Hun Sen

    A group representing some of the largest apparel brands in the US and Europe – including Gap, H&M and ASOS – expressed “growing concern” on Tuesday over several controversial labour laws and ongoing court cases against unionists described as restrictive and unjust. In an open letter

  • Hun Sen says Montagnards don’t exist in Cambodia

    Prime Minister Hun Sen once again attacked ex-opposition leader Sam Rainsy for pledging “autonomy” to Montagnards, claiming – seemingly incorrectly – the ethnic minority does not exist in Cambodia. “We respect all minorities such as Jarai, Steang, Phnong, but we have never had Montagnards,” the premier said